Take Your Recipe Box into the 21st Century


I used to have a binder of recipes torn from magazines and printed out from websites. You might have one too – full of recipes you are going to try “some day.” Mine was a zippered binder, which was the only thing that kept the whole thing in one place. I used to have to make sure it was on a flat surface when I unzipped it, or papers slithered everywhere. Add my handwritten recipe collection of family recipes and tried and true favorites and you had the sum total of my version of the old recipe box.

I have a whole new system now that works so much better than the old one ever did. Several years ago I stopped printing out recipes I wanted to try, instead I saved them as PDF files on the computer. Our Computer Cookbook (catchy name, right?) is full of recipes that I want to try someday – alphabetized and ready for me when I want them.

The computer cookbook file also has every recipe that I have typed up to email to someone and all the recipes I have developed for the blog. Slowly I am adding old favorites from my handwritten recipe book, as I get time to type them.


Dropbox is the tool that makes the computer recipe file work like a dream. In case you aren’t familiar with it, Dropbox is a cloud storage service that allows me to share my files (recipes and otherwise) between my various devices: computer, iPad and iPhone. Since my computer cookbook files are stored on the Dropbox servers, I can access them from any device, anywhere I happen to be.

Mostly I use it to open files on the iPad so I can use it as an electronic cookbook in the kitchen. I also love having access when someone asks me for a recipe – I can find it right then and send it in an email. Best of all, Dropbox is free, unless you need tons of storage, and it works better than any of the recipe and cookbook apps I have tried. If you want to check it out, click on this link. (Full disclosure, if you sign up, you get extra storage space, and so do I).

How do you manage your recipes?


12 thoughts on “Take Your Recipe Box into the 21st Century

  1. Hi Sarah! Are the recipes in PDF format when you put them in DropBox? I have a ton of recipes – both for home and for the free community meal I cook for. Can you organize recipes by, say, home/Stone Soup? Thanks for the idea!

    • Sorry, I wasn’t clear on that. Only the recipes I pull off the internet are in PDFs. I type everything else in Word or Pages so I can make edits as I need to.

      I debated making different folders with categories. I have gone with using the titles as organizers. For example I have:
      Brownies, Caramel
      Brownies, Cream Cheese
      Brownies, Dark Chocolate
      Brownies, S’mores

      It only works that way if you are consistent when you are naming files, and with punctuation. You can’t use a comma in some titles and a dash in others (I speak from experience).

      I like having the cookbook organized in one big list, without separate folders. But you have to find what works for you. You do all the organizing on your end –Dropbox only stores it, it doesn’t have any parameters for how you configure files.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Sarah, this is an excellent post, and an excellent, totally streamlined idea. However, today, any sort of tech beyond comments and email catchup is blowing my mind. I’m saving this for our next coffee outing, but be prepared to tell me all about it. Maybe this should be our topic du jour? I waffle on recipe storage between pinterest and erm…notebooks. ermm….. 🙂

    • Thanks, Shannon. I’ll definitely fill you at our next coffee. And don’t trash the notebooks – I haven’t found a good substitute for recipes in development. I usually don’t type up recipes until I have gotten them close to the final form. And you definitely have to find the system that works for you personally.

  3. I started the blog to try to get my recipes organized for my daughter but I still find that I go through this big folder looking for certain ones anyway. My brain just sort of photographs anything printed or w/a picture & I can find things fast just by seeing the paper or handwriting.
    I don’t know if you play with photoshop or anything like that but I started a recipe collection for my daughter by taking favorite photo’s, fading them to the background, then overlaying w/a recipe. I got an acrylic box frame to stack them all in & it can be hung on the kitchen wall plus it protects the recipe/photo while cooking.

    • Cool idea! I am not that good with photoshop. I do still have quite a few recipes on paper, still in the zipping binder. I am slowly getting them into the computer. I do get the picture/image thing. That is how I knew where things were in the binder. 🙂

  4. Sarah,
    Does this mean I can pitch the foot high stack of magazines “to be gone through in case there’s a recipe I’m interested in” into the recycling bin?
    What do you use to keep the iPad from getting coated in flour?

    • There is an app called JotNotPro that lets you take a picture of a recipe in a magazine (for instance) and then converts it to a PDF. It’s almost like scanning it – the quality is very good. I haven’t used it much – I need to use it more, for all those recipes I ripped out ages ago and haven’t tried yet.

      I sometimes lean my iPad in my recipe book holder. It has a clear acrylic front that covers the iPad. Other times I just lean it up against the backsplash and wipe any flour or smudges off later. I have also heard that you can slip it in a plastic bag and still use the screen through the bag. I haven’t tried that one.

  5. Kristin, I just rounded up a bunch of food mags and gave them to the Planned Parenthood Book Sale. With all the internet recipe sites and my hoard of cookbooks, I found I looked thru the mags and that was it.
    Sarah, I signed up to Dropbox thru your direct link. Got my 2 GB of free space. How much more
    do we get for “friend” sign up? So glad you shared this info. Have been getting tired of saving
    recipes and sending them to myself, so I can transfer them to another computer. Yummy time saver. Thanks much!!! 🙂 M

    • You should get 500MB of free space, and so should I. The free space shows up on your account once you install Dropbox on your computer. Using only tablets or smart phones doesn’t count – but you can link the account to those after you have it on your computer. Once you have your account, if you send a link to your friends, you and they both get 500MB of extra space if they sign up for an account.

      Glad this helped. It has streamlined my recipe keeping so much! It is still a work in progress, but it’s coming along.

      • I’m kinda the Dewey Point System filer. File for Meats, then sub-files by Beef, Chicken, Pork. If I have a BBQ recipe, it gets filed under BBQ & type of meat, and also, my sub-file of meat. My way of filing is to use the main ingredient as my subject file or the type of food. Very seldom do I remember the recipe name, but can remember the ingredient list. Oh, how our minds work!! 🙂

        • I really need to go back and standardize my titles. Some of them aren’t titled under my latest system, so some recipes are hard to find until I remember what I named it. It probably wouldn’t take long, if I would just do it! And it is interesting to see what systems work for different people!

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